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Keyes Wins GOP Straw Poll
by Focusing on the Issues

Sen. Bill Armistead

The Alabama Republican Party held its first ever presidential straw poll last week-end and over 3,000 Republicans showed up to participate. This was the largest gathering of Republicans in Alabama - ever. That, in and of itself, made the event a tremendous success.

Since Alabama is the last state in the nation to hold its presidential primary - in June 2000 - there were not many candidates interested in coming to the straw poll. The Alabama Senate passed a bill in the last session of the legislature which would have moved the presidential primary to March - when most presidential primaries are held. I was supportive of this change, but the House failed to pass it and so we remain dead last in voting for our choice for president. That means both the Republican and Democrat candidates for presidents will have been selected by the time we cast our vote next June.

But, back to the straw poll. Only three presidential candidates accepted the invitation to come to Alabama to campaign before the delegates to the straw poll. They were U.S. Sen. Orin Hatch of Utah, former U.N. Ambassador Alan Keyes and Florida education advocate Angel Rocker.

The result of the straw poll showed that Alabama Republicans responded positively to the efforts of Hatch and Keyes campaigning in Alabama. Ambassador Keyes surprised the professional pundits by winning the poll with 500 of the 1,700 plus votes. He got almost one-third of the votes cast. Sen. Hatch came in second with 458 votes. Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who many assumed would win, even though he did not campaign, came in third with 421 votes.

Frankly, I was not surprised with Keyes' come-from-behind victory since Bush and the other perceived front runners snubbed Alabama. He is by everyone's standards the most articulate and dynamic speaker in American politics. And on top of that, he has been in Alabama numerous times. He even served for a short time several years ago as interim President of Alabama A & M University in Huntsville.

Many delegates voted for Keyes, however, based on his beliefs and conservative philosophy. More than any other candidate, Keyes' position on the issues probably reflects the average conservative voter in Alabama than any other presidential candidate. And I think most conservatives are thrilled to see a black leader, like Keyes, speaking so strongly and convincingly on the issues.

Keyes is a staunchly pro-life. He is correct when he says that the Declaration of Independence plainly states that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with our human rights, and not one of us has the right to take the life of an unborn child.

On the issue of affirmative action, Keyes says that the civil rights movement of the 1960's sought to enforce the fundamental principle that all men are created equal. But, today's civil rights groups have abandoned that principle in favor of preferential treatment for groups defined by race or sex. He says that this is simply wrong and that we cannot cure injustice with another injustice.

Keyes firmly believes that the courts have gone too far in undermining religious freedom. He said that he would propose legislation restoring this freedom as well as appoint conservative judges who would turn the tide against constitutional interpretations that undermine religious freedom.

On the issue of taxes, Keyes favors the abolition of the income tax saying that doing so will restore the basic American principle that our income is both our own money and our own private business - not the government's. He proposes replacing it with a national sales tax which he says would rejuvenate independence and responsibility in our citizens.

He wants to end government programs like the family-destroying welfare system and sex-education courses that encourage promiscuity. Keyes says that our first priority should be restoring the moral and material support for the marriage-based two-parent family. He claims that the disintegration of the family is the major contributing factor in poverty, crime, violence, the decline in educational performance, and a host of other expensive social problems.

Keyes is committed to preserving the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves by owning guns. It is his belief that the moral values of our people that will save us from violence, not the presence or absence of weapons.

Having heard Ambassador Keyes speak on the issues several times, it was not surprising to me that he connected with Alabamians. While no one predicts that he can get the Republican nomination for the presidency, Keyes serves a useful purpose in the campaign by focusing on these basic issues which are of concern to many Americans.

Senator Armistead is an Alabama State Senator for District 14.


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